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UCL and the French Embassy: fostering interdisciplinary research

By uclqjle, on 31 March 2017

UCL and French Embassy logosUCL and the French Embassy share a longstanding impactful partnership with the aim of fostering the co-production of innovative insights into how to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

This partnership has resulted in a number of collaborative initiatives that have provided platforms for cross-disciplinary research collaboration between UCL scholars and leading French academics and researchers. These initiatives are largely driven by UCL’s Grand Challenges programme, allowing for interdisciplinary collaboration in the development of societally relevant interventions.

Here are a few examples of UCL/French Embassy initiatives that seek both to build on existing links, and to stimulate new ones between UCL and French academic and higher education organisations such as French universities, Grand Écoles and research organisations:

UCL / French Embassy Funding for Arts, Humanities and Social Science Workshops

This co-operative scheme, which is currently calling for proposals, commenced in 2013 and has been extended to July 2019. Around £2,500 per workshop is available for academics and researchers seeking to organise workshops in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. This initiative seeks to encourage junior and senior scholars to establish new directions for possible research collaborations – not only in their own areas of expertise, but also across disciplines. The deadline for applications is 26 April 2017.

Conférence-débat lecture series

The annual Conférence-débat lecture series, started in 2010, brings together eminent French academics and UCL’s finest minds to discuss topics such as ‘The State of Nature’, ‘Towards Decarbonised Economies’, and ‘Climate Governance, post COP21 agreement’. These deeply insightful and engaging evening joint lectures have also involved afternoon workshops designed with the aim of facilitating potential collaboration between the visiting French research team and the team from UCL.

Collaborative Science & Technology Workshop competition

The Collaborative S&T Workshop competition, initiated in 2012, calls for proposals from leading academics and senior researchers to hold workshops at UCL that address a related challenge at the frontiers of either basic or applied science, one of UCL’s Grand Challenges, or a European Commission thematic programme.

In accordance with a 2012-signed Memorandum of Understanding between UCL and the French Embassy, the Embassy has generously provided up to €22,500 in annual grants to support five cycles of the S&T workshops. The main aim of this annual event is to strengthen existing links between UCL and French academic and research organisations, and to create a platform that fosters the development of new approaches for potential research collaborations across Europe.

Ask GEO: Ciaran Moynihan, Senior Partnership Manager (North and Latin America)

By Sophie Vinter, on 25 January 2017

Ciaran Moynihan, Senior Partnerships Manager (North and Latin America)Ciaran is GEO’s Senior Partnerships Manager for North and Latin America. Here he shares some key updates and opportunities from both regions with us.

Tell us more about your role in GEO and activity in your regions

I work closely with UCL faculties and departments, as well as other Professional Services, to manage and develop partnerships with institutions in North and Latin America. As you can imagine, UCL has a very wide range of activity in both regions, ranging from research collaborations and student exchanges to dual degrees and beyond. Some interesting partnerships I work on would be the Yale UCL Collaborative; an emerging priority partnership with Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; and another emerging partnership with the University of Toronto (to name but a few!)

One challenge I face in my role is around capturing the full breadth of activity that UCL colleagues have underway with partners in North and Latin America – I am always interested to hear about links in the regions which I may not be aware of – so please do get in touch to tell me about your research and education links in both regions. There may be ways I can support you in your endeavours!

Map showing a sample of UCL collaborations in North and Latin America, by metropolitan areaWhat are the UCL Research Catalyst Awards?

The UCL Research Catalyst Awards, sponsored by Santander Universities, have successfully run since 2011. The scheme has enabled more than 40 visits to Latin American universities to support development of research collaboration.

The purpose of the awards is to foster research collaboration between UCL and key partner universities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The awards are available to cover travel, accommodation and subsistence costs associated with focused visits to potential research collaborators, and are aimed at achieving a specific outcome that will support future research collaboration.

We have recently extended the deadline for this year’s applications to Monday 13 February 2017 at 10am. If you’d like to apply, find out more on GEO’s website.

Why do you think UCL’s partnership with Santander Universities is so successful?

UCL began its partnership with Santander Universities in 2007 and was one of the very first UK universities to become a member of the Santander Universities network. The partnership provides UCL students and staff with numerous benefits and opportunities, ranging from study abroad experiences, to research travel grants for staff, to Masters scholarships for incoming students from Latin America.

The partnership with Santander Universities is a strong one for UCL – this year marks the ten-year anniversary of the relationship, which has gone from strength to strength. Not only does Santander Universities provide funding to UCL, but we also work closely with them on support for student entrepreneurship and on helping students to gain internships in small and medium enterprises to enable them to be better prepared for global careers and lives.

UCL will shortly sign a new partnership agreement with Santander Universities, renewing our strong relationship through to 2019, so watch this space for updates on opportunities for staff and students!

What are you working on at the moment?

One of my big areas of focus right now is developing a potentially important partnership with the University of Toronto (U of T). UCL already has strong collaborative links with U of T in a range of areas including child health, education, big data and cancer research, to name a few. We also have a large undergraduate student exchange programme with them. I am currently working with UCL faculties and U of T, under the leadership of the Vice-Provost (International), to explore other areas in which we might collaborate together. Most specifically right now, we are organising a joint workshop on ‘cities’ at UCL, to discuss research collaboration in this area.

U of T is a similar institution to UCL – located in a global city, similarly placed in world league tables, research intensive and with strong educational underpinnings for our students. We are excited at UCL with the opportunity this developing partnership presents, to enable us to work together to deliver excellence in research that will potentially have global impact while also supporting our students as global citizens.

What benefits would joining the North and Latin America networks bring to UCL academics?

Both networks essentially act as ‘communities of interest’ for UCL academics working on topics related to the region, with partners in the region or from the region. We hold termly meetings to bring academics together to hear about institutional initiatives in these regions, while also providing a forum for academics to network with each other and discuss their work regarding partners from North and Latin America.

We also utilise the networks to share regular region-specific funding opportunities that may be of interest to academics, and we are planning to run some academic led events over the coming months. In fact, it would be wonderful to hear from UCL academics on themes, topics etc. for possible events which colleagues would like to see run via the networks!

Contact Ciaran on:

+44 (0)20 3108 7777 / internal 57777

UCL Research Catalyst Awards: tackling rare diseases in Brazil

By ucypcco, on 23 January 2017

28 February 2017 is the tenth international Rare Disease Day, focusing on the theme of research. We take a look at how the UCL Research Catalyst Awards have enabled an international collaboration tackling rare diseases to go from strength to strength.

In 2014 UCL Professor Jim Owen (Emeritus Professor of Molecular Medicine) and Professor David Abraham (Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology) travelled to Brazil thanks to a £5,000 Santander Universities-funded Research Catalyst Award.

Their visit identified research on rare disease (RD) as a significant area that could be jointly developed between UCL and institutions in north-east Brazil – a centre of global rare disease.

The partnerships formed went on to help with students and post-doctoral researchers coming to UCL via Brazil’s Science without Borders (SwB) mobility programme.

International Symposium on Rare Diseases 2016Collaboration on rare disease

Professor Owen said the area of RD was identified due to two compelling reasons: (i) that it is now Brazilian National Policy to introduce early and accurate diagnosis of RD plus treatments for affected individuals into the public health system; and (ii) that genetic clusters of RD are concentrated in north-east Brazil due to centuries of colonisation and crossbreeding between natives, Europeans (Portuguese, Dutch) and African slaves.

Building on links with Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE), this joint goal progressed further with Brazilian researchers from LIKA [the leading biomedical centre in north-east Brazil situated on the UFPE campus] visiting UCL Departments and the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH) in September 2014. In turn, this led to a highly successful Rare Diseases symposium (RDis-2015) the following April attended by seven UCL researchers, including three from ICH.

The Zika virus outbreak slowed progress in 2016, but a second symposium ran in March 2016 with the clear aim of sustaining emerging partnerships between UK-Brazil laboratories and developing new ones. UCL links with five universities (UFPE, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco,  Universidade Federal do Ceará, Universidade de Fortaleza and Universidade Federal da Bahia) in north-east Brazil are now in place, with a vision for UFPE and associated Recife Hospitals to form a Reference Centre for RD in line with recent National and Interfarma recommendations. At the same time the partnership will seek to widen this consortium to encompass Brazil’s leading universities.

Rare diseases debate held at the Legislative Assembly of Pernambuco StateProf Owen highlighted a further strong positive note as the involvement of GlaxoSmithKline at the 2016 symposium – it is hoped this tentative partnership will be developed in the months ahead, along with involvement of further pharmaceutical companies.

These research links are now beginning to show tangible evidence of success, through publications (a 2015 PLoS One article, two submitted and others in preparation) and also through grant funding (with UCL researchers included grants of £185,000 and £144,000 to UFC and UFPE, respectively), while UFPE was named on a £20,000 grant awarded to Drug Discovery, UCL School of Pharmacy.

Links help foster mobility

Thanks to links fostered by the original visit and subsequent collaborations, a number of Brazilian students and post-doctoral researchers have come to UCL via SwB.

Dr Ayrles Brandão da Silva (a post-doc SwB fellow from Fortaleza) spent a year in UCL’s Institute for Liver and Digestive Health working with Dr Raj Mookerjee, while Isabella Cantanhede (a UFPE medical student and undergraduate SwB fellow) undertook a five-month research project in UCL’s Department of Clinical Neurosciences with Dr Jan-Willem Taanmen. While in the UK they had the opportunity to meet Professor Sir John Gurdon when he gave the UCL Clinical Science Prize lecture.

Brazilian students met Professor Sir John Gurdon when he gave the UCL Clinical Science Prize lectureSandwich PhD student Felipe Domingos de Sousa investigated the therapeutic potential of plant lectins in healing processes and other related skin diseases under the supervision of Professor David Abraham (UCL Centre for Rheumatology and Connective Tissue Diseases). In Brazil, Felipe has dual positions in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Universidade Federal do Ceará and in the Centre of Experimental Biology (Nubex), Universidade de Fortaleza. Before leaving UFC, he successfully cloned and expressed Frutapin, a lectin from Artocarpus incisa seeds, in milligram amounts from E coli cultures.

Two further SwB sponsored students from north-east Brazil have also spent periods at UCL: Victor Passos (UFPE) who worked with Professor Steve Hart at ICH and Kildere Marques-Canuto, who received training in the Division of Medicine, RFC.  Though the SwB programme is currently suspended, three other UFPE researchers are currently seeking fellowships to come to UCL: Dr Luiz Alberto Mattos to spend a year at UCL Department of Clinical Trials, Dr Carolina Córdula for a proteomics study at ICH (Dr Kevin Mills) and a PhD student, Andriu Catena who will extend Dr Ayrles Brandão da Silva’s project.

Scholarship opportunity in China – apply by 13 February

By ucypcco, on 5 January 2017

An excellent funding opportunity is again running for UCL students with an interest in China.

The Chinese Government Scholarship scheme covers tuition fees, medical insurance, accommodation and a living allowance for successful applicants to study in China for a period of up to one academic year.

Students must satisfy the following criteria in order to be eligible to apply:

  • Be a national of a country other than China
  • Be under age 45 and with at least two years of undergraduate level study

UCL will be shortlisting nominations for this scholarship scheme.

How to apply

In order to submit an application for consideration by the UCL panel, please send the following documents by email to Chris Cook (c.cook@ucl.ac.uk), Global Engagement Office Partnership Officer, as soon as possible and by 9am on 13 February 2017 at the latest:

  1. CV
  2. Academic transcripts (find more information on how to obtain UCL transcripts here)
  3. Two recommendation letters from UCL academics
  4. Study Plan (minimum of 500 words)

For more information visit the Chinese Government Scholarship website.


Yenching Academy Scholarship and Global Symposium: Apply now

By Sophie Vinter, on 3 November 2016

Yenching Academy Scholarship posterUCL students wanting to develop their understanding of China and its role in the world can apply for a fully funded Master’s scholarship at Peking University (PKU).

The Yenching Academy is offering the chance to complete an interdisciplinary Master’s in China Studies at the heart of PKU in Beijing.

Applications are open to graduates of any discipline until 31 January 2017 and can be submitted directly through the Yenching Academy website.

Students can also apply to attend the Academy’s flagship event, the Yenching Global Symposium, taking place from 23-27 March 2017 . This year’s theme is “Xinnovation: Identity of Innovation in China” and applications close on 15 December 2016.

Professor John L Holden, Associate Dean of the Yenching Academy, and UCL History graduate James Ashcroft, who was among the first cohort of scholars, visited UCL to encourage students with an interest in China to apply.

They explained how the residential programme attracts outstanding graduates from all over the world, helping to shape a new generation of global citizens with a nuanced understanding of China.

“The best year of my life”

James, who is now working as a consultant at Deloitte, described how the experience offered the chance not only for intercultural and academic exchange, but also for personal and professional development.

Chinese cultural activitiesHe said: “I principally studied 16th and 17th century political thought at UCL, but also Chinese history. I’d never been to China or studied Chinese before, but the Academy flew us out one month before to do an intensive language course which was a very useful survival kit to have.

“I focussed less on the academic things and more on the experience I could get out of being in China – it was the best year of my life. Afterwards I moved to Taiwan and stayed with a host family. It’s a really stimulating environment to be in and by the end you have friends for life from all over the globe.”

Working closely with their academic mentors, Yenching Scholars create their own study paths by choosing from six academic concentrations – ranging from Economics and Management to Politics and International Relations – and participating in a variety of extracurricular activities.

Changing the world

Professor Holden said the programme attracts a variety of high-profile speakers including international ambassadors and renowned authors such as Yu Hua. Some scholars also undertake internships as part of their time in China.

Professor John Holden is encouraging UCL students to apply for the Yenching Academy scholarshipHe said: “There is no place like PKU in China; it is where all major Chinese social movements have been initiated. We’re able to recruit spectacular people who want to change the world and make a difference.

“This year we are rolling out a new course, ‘China in Transition’, which is an interdisciplinary look at China since 1978. We provide funds for each scholar to go out and research for that course on trips, and there is also a field trip in the autumn.”

Both urged applicants to make their personal statement stand out and to prepare well for the short Skype interview.

James added: “Make sure you have a good recommendation from people who know you well. Use your personal statement to help us understand who you are – it’s not just about your academic quality, think about why you want to participate and how this will tie into your future.”



Ask GEO: Rachel Corcoran, Programme Manager

By Sophie Vinter, on 22 September 2016

Rachel Corcoran, Programme ManagerRachel is GEO’s Programme Manager. We asked her to tell us more about her role and the recently launched Global Engagement Funds.

What is your role in GEO?

UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy launched in May last year – it’s an ambitious strategy which sets out a number of objectives: from ramping up the university’s collaborations with institutions abroad, to increasing student mobility and raising UCL’s global profile, to name a few.

As with any strategy, it’s all well and good deciding what you want to achieve, but the more difficult part is in the delivery. In UCL’s case, my office, the GEO, has a team dedicated to partnership development, with much of the other activity actually delivered by lots of other departments across the university – a ‘hub and spoke’ model (see image below), with GEO as the ‘hub’.

As Programme Manager, my role is to be a central point of oversight – to plan, monitor and evaluate success, ensuring that progress against objectives across UCL is captured in one place, identifying areas of overlap between different initiatives and supporting delivery offices where needed.

One part of the strategy which I specifically work on is managing the funding to academics to develop their overseas collaborations – recently I was pleased to launch the second year of the Global Engagement Funds.

The 'Hub and Spoke' model for delivering UCL's Global Engagement StrategyWhat are the Global Engagement Funds for?

Global Engagement Funds cover the costs associated with UCL academics collaborating with higher education institutions, organisations or companies abroad.  The aim is to facilitate activity for which there might not be another funding source, but which could be the start of an exciting new initiative.

There were some fascinating projects last year – I remember there was one from Archaeology, involving a researcher partnering with a Dutch NGO to tackle the black market in looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria, through jointly building a database of such objects. Or the lecturer from the Institute for Global Health who funded travel to Kigali to work with the University of Rwanda on the prevention of gender-based violence – including a joint seminar, meetings with key individuals, and visits to potential field sites, with a view to writing a grant proposal.

I’m not part of the decision-making though – the panels are led by Vice-Deans International (VDIs) and regional Pro-Vice-Provosts (PVPRs).

What is the role of the VDIs and PVPRs in the wider strategy?

The PVPRs play an important strategic role as a catalyst for UCL’s engagement in their particular region. Each term they chair the Regional Network meeting; they welcome international delegations to UCL and act as ambassadors for UCL abroad.

While the PVPRs focus on a specific region spanning all of UCL’s faculties, the role of the VDIs spans all regions in a particular faculty. They are a point of contact for academics and work with the Dean to ensure that the faculty’s global partnerships (e.g. teaching, research, consultancy, knowledge transfer) are in line with the wider strategy.

Map showing UCL activity in Europe as at September 2016How do you think the vote for Brexit has impacted on UCL’s plans for global engagement?

I think that it just shows that it is now more important than ever that UCL remains open and engaged with the world, sending a clear message to our partners (see my colleague Conor’s comments).  As our Vice-Provost (International) says, we are redoubling our efforts to meet those objectives set out in the strategy, especially with regard to Europe, one of the regions where we have a significant amount of activity.

Not only that, but I am excited to be part of reviewing, in the light of the Brexit vote, the way in which we intend to go about achieving objectives.

UK Mexico Workshop: Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health – the Zika Virus

By Ciaran Moynihan, on 14 September 2016

Illustration of Zika virus particlesThe Global Engagement Office is delighted to announce an exciting opportunity for UCL academics/researchers working on topics related to the Zika Virus to participate in a two-day workshop in Mexico City in November 2016.

The workshop will bring together researchers from UCL, Kings College London, Oxford University and University of Edinburgh from the UK, and Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) and Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica (INSP) from Mexico, to discuss basic, clinical and public health related research on the Zika Virus.

It is hoped that attendees can develop collaborations on related topics as result of the workshop.

Funding of up to £2,500 per person is available to support at least two UCL academics to attend the event, which is due to take place in mid to late November (exact dates to be confirmed).

Download further details about the programme here – additional information will follow in due course.

This opportunity is open to all permanent academic/research staff at UCL.

How to apply

If you are interested in presenting at or attending the workshop, please send a brief ‘Expression of Interest’ to Ciaran Moynihan, Senior Partnership Manager (North and Latin America) to ciaran.moynihan@ucl.ac.uk by Tuesday 27 September.

Please include:

  • your research interest in the event
  • the topic on which you might be interested in presenting
  • whether you have any links with UNAM or INSP and
  • any initial thoughts on potential collaboration with UNAM/INSP in this area post-workshop.

Image credit: Zika virus particles, Maurizio De Angelis, Wellcome Images/Flickr

Global Engagement Funds: diversifying UCL’s collaborations

By Rachel P Corcoran, on 7 September 2016

LargeImagev3The launch of the 2016/17 Global Engagement Funds builds on a successful pilot year, which offered support to 75 academics developing partnerships with colleagues at 93 different institutions.

Looking at the picture to the left, what quickly becomes clear is the diverse nature of UCL’s partnerships that were initiated or strengthened through these funds.

The funds are open to staff from all 11 UCL faculties – last year colleagues worked with partners in 34 countries. You can see in which region each faculty spent funds last year below.

Colleagues can apply for funds to support a range of activities:

  • to further research activity with colleagues in other countries (funds to cover travel and accommodation for inward/outbound visits, for example);
  • to facilitate the drafting of publications and/or collaborative research bids;
  • to organise workshops, symposia and festivals (inviting world-class speakers, covering the cost of venue hire, catering );
  • to carry out field visits;
  • to create new, or widen the range of, opportunities available through partner institutions to the benefit of students (for example, student exchange).

GEF by Faculty 800x500_with wordingApplicants may involve colleagues based in different countries – for example last year researchers at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (Brain Sciences) used the funds to finance travel and accommodation for a unique brain tumour research project in partnership with colleagues at the Humboldt University, Berlin, and the University of California, San Francisco.

The global partner – that is, the colleague(s) with whom applicants intend to collaborate – is not limited to another higher education or research institute, but can be from a charity, NGO or public/corporate body. So in this way the funds are encouraging innovative collaborations to deliver global impact.

Colleagues from UCL Institute of Education (Social Science) were awarded Global Engagement Funds to carry out explorative research on the situation of the 500+ unaccompanied children at ‘the Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais, France.  They strengthened relationships with a group of NGOs/charities with whom they will write a collaborative research bid in future.

Over in UCL Laws, an academic travelled to the USA to initiate research into the International Law Commission with colleagues at the United Nations in New York.

Mapv2Global Engagement Funds can also be used to create more international opportunities for UCL students.

A researcher from Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering received funding to visit the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore to develop a programme of student exchange alongside collaborative research in geotechnical engineering.

Shortly after the UK referendum result, Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice Provost (International), reinforced UCL’s commitment to intensifying our global engagement activity.

The Global Engagement Funds are enabling academics across the university to engage in such work.

Rachel Corcoran is GEO’s Programme Manager.

Applications for the Global Engagement Funds close on 28 October 2016 – find out more and apply here.

Collaborating in Chile: UCL hosts Chilean Guest of Government Event

By Ciaran Moynihan, on 31 May 2016

Roundtable Delegates take their places at the Chilean Guest of Government event at UCL in May 2016

Professor Michael Arthur, President and Provost of UCL, hosted a successful Chilean Guest of Government Event earlier this month.

The event provided an opportunity for the public to directly engage with project and programme leads from a range of companies, UK research funding agencies and UK universities, to explore the vast range of UK-Chile collaborations underway.

The event was held in conjunction with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Chilean Embassy London and the International Unit, Universities UK.

Guests included a high level Government of Chile Delegation, led by Heraldo Muñoz, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Professor Robin Grimes, Chief Scientific Advisor to the FCO and Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Chile, Fiona Clouder joined the Event on behalf of the British Government.

Mutually beneficial collaborations

Alberto Undurraga, Minister for Public Works visiting the UCL STEaPP Project with Dr Michele AcutoThe event began with a Project Showcase – the FCO’s first joint Newton-Prosperity Showcase displaying a range of UK-Chile initiatives that have been funded through the Newton-Picarte and Prosperity Funds.

This was followed by a roundtable discussion on education, science and innovation, focusing on how the UK and Chile can work more closely together in future.

Minister Muñoz welcomed the strong approach to partnership between UCL and Chile, which was outlined by Professor Michael Arthur in his welcome words at the roundtable. He highlighted the importance of such funding opportunities in developing mutually beneficial projects between the two countries.

The Minister stated that Chile’s upcoming removal from the DAC List of ODA Recipients must not result in an immediate removal of access to such funding sources and that the Chilean Government would be discussing this with key stakeholders over the coming months.

Supporting national priorities

Andrés Gómez-Lobo, Minister for Transportation and Telecommunications and UCL alumnus and Heraldo Muñoz, Minister for Foreign Affairs visit Jeremy BenthamMinister Muñoz and Minister Gómez-Lobo outlined a number of national priority areas, which they noted could benefit further from partnerships with UK institutions, including astronomy, energy, the use of satellite technology to prevent illegal fishing along Chile’s coast and city transport initiatives.

Professor Michael Arthur said: “It was wonderful for UCL to host this fantastic event with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Chilean Embassy London and the International Unit.

“The event highlighted the exciting range of projects that are already underway between UK and Chilean institutions and the scope for further partnerships. Chile is one of UCL’s priority countries for development of partnerships that can lead to the creation of wise solutions to global challenges – the commitment of the Chilean and British governments to supporting development of such links is inspiring and I hope will lead to further engagement between UCL and Chilean institutions in future”.

Building shared approaches

Her Majesty’s Ambassador Fiona Clouder added: “The event at UCL demonstrated the vibrancy of collaborations already underway between the UK and Chile. Since I began my posting in Chile, I have seen a strong increase in UK and Chilean universities working in partnership to address challenges that not only affect Chile but also the UK.

“I hope the discussions at UCL will add to the momentum already developing around building shared approaches to benefit both nations in the future.”

Find out more

“We can’t make a perfect world, but we can build a better one”: Bill Clinton inspires UCL’s global citizens in California

By Rachel P Corcoran, on 29 April 2016

UCL students Naomi Poyser, Mujavid Bukhari and Francisco Cordoba Ortalora at CGI UThree UCL students were selected from amongst hundreds of applicants to travel to San Francisco and attend the ninth Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI-U) conference at the University of California, Berkeley.

UCL is one of just two UK university members of CGI-U and students representing the faculties of Arts & Humanities, Engineering and the Institute of Education joined more than 1,200 others from over 70 universities and 45 countries to take part.

All had made a ‘commitment to action’ – a project to improve an aspect of a community based locally or overseas, in the fields of education, environment, poverty, peace, human rights or health.

Founded by former US President Bill Clinton – pictured below with the Global Engagement Office’s Programme Manager Rachel Corcoran – CGI-U builds on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges.

UCL students can apply for funding to develop their projects via CGI-U’s Innovation Fund, even if they did not attend the conference.

“Don’t waste inspiration”

Rachel Corcoran with Bill Clinton at CGI-UNaomi Poyser, final year undergraduate in Greek & Latin and Student Enterprise Ambassador at UCL Advances, built Greenseed, an app to encourage users to share tips and advice on growing their own food.

Her favourite part of the conference was a panel discussion chaired by Clinton, with the founders of Pinterest, Khan Academy, MuslimGirl.net and Cady Coleman, a NASA astronaut.

“This discussion blew me away; the panel members were all so charismatic and had great insight to share from their amazing and varied experiences, and Bill Clinton kept the discussion exciting and impactful,” she said.

“From the founder of Pinterest I learnt to view failure as a stepping stone, from the founder of MuslimGirl the importance of writing your own narrative, and from the astronaut how to put things in perspective. My favourite lesson was from Salman Khan, who told us ‘don’t waste inspiration’ – advice I have been sticking to since being back.”

Preparation for global careers

UCL students Naomi Poyser and Francisco Cordoba Ortalora at CGI-UFrancisco Cordoba Ortalora, studying an MA in Lifelong Learning Policy & Management, created Diaspora Colombia, a mentoring programme and e-learning platform that empowers young Colombian leaders from disadvantaged backgrounds to engage in world-class education.

Francisco said during the conference he learned strategies to expand his programme’s reach through partnerships, as well as the importance of not losing sight of his true goal. He particularly liked meeting NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, adding: “She shared with us all her struggles to achieve success and how to keep motivated along the way.”

The delegates also picked up practical advice. After developing Scoodle, a system enabling students to search and instantly book lessons with tutors in any subject, first-year Computer Science student Mujavid Bukhari said attending CGI-U helped him learn about increasing organisational capacity and fundraising from leaders in the field.

While in San Francisco, Mujavid attended Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Entrepreneurship Summit and said: “I’m now just waiting for exams to finish so that I can really get started developing Scoodle.”

The students spoke of the value in networking with like-minded peers. Naomi added: “Meeting students from all around the world who are all working towards addressing world problems was incredible and gave me so much hope and motivation. I met people who I will definitely be staying in touch with, and who I could potentially collaborate with in the future.

“Bill Clinton’s closing comment that “we can’t make a perfect world, but we can make a better one” really touched me and has inspired me more than ever to carry out my commitment.”